Cosin’s Library is in the City of Durham in North-East England and is part of the University of Durham. The library is situated in the centre of the city, just to the right of Durham’s famous cathedral. Earlier this year, Cosin’s Library hosted a series of activities, supported by the Arts Council, to celebrate the library, which has recently undergone renovation. I was commissioned to lead two workshops called ‘A taste of hand-quilting’. Hand-quilting has a long tradition in the North of England. The traditional motifs are sometimes referred to as ‘Durham quilting’, but ‘North Country Quilting’ is more accurate as the motifs were used across to the North-West also, see the post here.)
Due to pandemic restrictions, it was decided to hold the workshops online. This called for ingenuity and new ways of working for me as a teacher, but it also allowed for participants to join in from different places in the UK – and from elsewhere in the world – in a practical workshop to make hand-quilted blocks.
Bishop Cosin, whose portrait is below, was Bishop of Durham between 1660 and 1672. As today’s library staff explain: “Durham had suffered much economic and material damage during the Civil War and Commonwealth period (1642-1660). Cosin wanted to reintroduce a unified Anglicanism to the area and to re-establish the authority of the Bishops of Durham. His library was part of this mission.”
“The library was founded in 1669 by John Cosin as the ‘episcopal library’ and was one of the earliest public libraries in the north of England. ‘Public’ meant local clergy and professional men. The subject strengths of the library are: theology, law and history. The library has been used by Durham University since 1832 and has been a ‘Designated Collection’ since 2005.”
I had the opportunity to look inside the library, while it was under restoration. In the photo above, you can see how beautiful it is now. I was struck by the design of the roundels that decorate the area immediately above the bookshelves. This became part of the inspiration for the design for the hand-quilted project each participant completed on the workshop. It seemed appropriate to concentrate on letters (since it’s a library we are dealing with), so a letter within a roundel (just as the portraits are inside a roundel) went into the design. As it is a seventeenth-century library, I looked for a historic typeface that would made reference to the print in books of the time. The letters appeared in capitals, to fit within the rounded shape of the frame.
All the materials for the workshop were sent out by me in a package: cream fabric, dark red quilting thread, wadding and a template for a roundel and a template for the first letter of the person’s first name. Packages went to the UK, but also to Canada, America and Australia!
Several workshop participants sent in a photo of their finished piece after the session were over. Becca Doggwiler of the Cosin’s library has made the photos into a composition – a virtual ‘quilt’ for Cosin’s library! Here it is:
To discover more about the library, visit https://sites.durham.ac.uk/cosinslibrary/
(P.S. I teach other workshops and classes too – see the ‘Classes’ page here)